Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Stories

I had one of those "woah!" moments over the weekend.

I was engaged in a big ol' bout of tidying, organising, and filing. These things often tend to take me a while, as I can often end up getting distracted by whatever it is that I'm trying to tidy/organise/file ;)

I keep a lot of things (read: random old junk) that spark memories. Leaflets collected on holidays, train tickets, pieces of paper with random scribbles, ... Things I keep that I think may later prompt a smile when I rediscover them.

And it's true, many of these things do spark those memories, spark those smiles, as I later come to rediscover them.

But I didn't really specifically think about this until I found something that I couldn't remember the story behind. Certainly, regardless of what that story is or how long its telling would take, it will have a story. But it felt very strange to hold in my hand something I had chosen to keep, yet not to know its context.

This got me thinking about stories. The stories behind all the things around us.

Everything has a story to tell. From the big things everyone knows about - the stars and the sky, the rivers and the hills, the mountains and the trees - to the little things in forgotten places. Some of these things simply pass through our lives, no more than an idle narrative as the page is turned. Others are a part of the story. And there are so many types of stories behind these things. There are the technical stories and sentimental stories. The stories of where things came from, and the stories of what they were. The stories of things seen, and the stories of things cherished.

The tapestry of life is an ever-changing, ever-evolving wonder. I wonder how these things thread through it?

The pound coin down the back of your sofa. How did it get there? How did it come to you? What has it seen?

The flimsy piece of cardboard that was your train ticket for a day. What did it mean to you? What did you do on that day? Where did you buy the ticket and where did it take you? Where did it come from? Was it once a part of a tree in a forest near you? Or did it come from the other side of the world?

The notes you write for yourself. Reminders and things to do. Would you know now what they meant? Did you do them? Did something more exciting come up that you forgot? Or was there so much going on to begin with that you had to write them down?

A hundred million things pass through our lives, and every one has a story to tell.

I like blogs. Blogs capture a fraction of that most personal of stories, the story of ourselves. Why did you start your blog, and where did it take you? Did the very act of telling that story take it to new places?

We are absolutely surrounded by stories. Most sit, tantalisingly out of reach, hovering beyond our awareness.

I wonder where we would go, who we would be, were we to know those stories. How much would they teach us, and how much would we learn?

Everything has a story. Everything has at least a glimmer of true and absolute wonder behind it.

I am glad that we do not immediately know the stories of all these things, or I would not have thought to write about it :)

What fun would it be, without the mystery?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Windows has Relationship Issues

Restored a computer from the "Windows CompletePC Backup" for the first time.

Trying to logon to the domain:
"The trust relationship between workstation and primary domain failed"

Well. Thanks for that. What do you want? Counselling? :S

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The 007 of Windows Updates?

There was a small bundle of Windows Updates appear last week. But is update 947821 - better known as "CheckSUR", or the "System Update Readiness Tool for Windows Vista and for Windows Server 2008" - the James Bond of Windows Updates? Is it designed to secretly slip past undetected, like a certain top secret agent?

What, you may rightfully wonder, leads me to ask these questions?

Well, I'm glad you wondered that. If you didn't wonder that, then you might as well stop reading now ;)

You see, I had ten Windows Updates appear that day.

Nine of them installed successfully. One did not. The one that did not was, of course, our cunning little friend, the CheckSUR utility.

Well, fortunately, we did also have an error code to investigate:



Ah. So. A stealth error, then. And hang on a minute, look at that error number... C00701E7. So, nobody's had any record of it, and the code includes 007? Well, it gets worse...

Because when I rebooted, Windows was very pleased to tell me that updates has been installed... And that none were remaining.

"Hmm," thought I, "did it install while rebooting?"



Nope.

It just didn't install it. It snuck in, blew itself up, and then vanished quietly in the wind.

And the ironic thing is that this update is one that is designed to fix problems in Windows. What happens when the thing that fixes things needs fixing!? :S

Ah well. It's not like it actually updated any files, so I won't worry about it.

And I do notice that since my original screenshot, Google does now have some relevant results.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

In the words of The Klaxons

It's not over yet.

Ooh, but that was jolly exciting listening :)

I mean in the end, if there ever was going to be a disaster, it was always going to be when they actually tried to collide the things. So, who knows? There's still every chance to be frozen in time and for the world to be torn asunder ;)

End of the World?

Personally, I don't think that the world will end tomorrow when the Large Hadron Collider is turned on and powered up.

But at the same time... The whole point is to see what it is that happens when we do these things. That means that, by definition, there are unknowns. That also means, in my opinion, that you cannot be absolutely positively certain that it won't do something unexpected. After all, if they knew what to expect, they wouldn't have built it.

And so, I find that I reall can't help but remember a short science fiction story I read when I was young(er).

Mr Top Thief is in his office, planning his next heist, when some funny lass walks in. He's not exactly sure what it is that makes her a funny lass, there was just something 'off' about her.

She puts down her plan for him, and his team of merry men (ok, fellow partners-in-crime), to steal vast amounts of world-famous antiquities and masterpieces.

Now, Mr Top Thief is by now thinking that she's a few nuts short of a Picnic bar - I mean, we're talking priceless pieces from all of the country here, we're talking some serious wonger wangling.

Until Ms. Suspiciously Offish Lass points him to the window of his office.

He looks out but nothing is really happening.

He looks some more and realises that nothing is happening.

Literally nothing. Nobody is moving, there's no background noise around him, trains are at a stand still, cars are lined in endless lines of traffic... Ok, those last two might not help, but you catch my drift, right?

"Look," she says, "I've got this right nifty bracelet that slows time outside its radius down so much, that it appears to have stopped. So if you're wearing it, you can do whatever you want, and nobody will ever even see you."

"Hang on a minute," says Mr. Top Thief, "why do you need me then?"

"Well, you've got the equipment, the man power, the experience... things we don't have to pull off a job of this scale."

"Right. Right. And what do I get out of it?"

"After you've gone out and picked out my shopping list of priceless goodies, you can keep the bracelet."

Hoooooh! Now there's an offer too good to refuse!

So, Mr. Top Thief and his merry band of freedom fighters - uh, I mean co-conspirators - agree.

And at each place, it's exactly the same - they go in, they load up with everything they want, they go out - and by the time they've done it, the security guards haven't even been able to blink an eye.

So, they pull off all the jobs, and they liberate all the gear.

And sure enough, our original Ms. Oddish Lass turns up and takes it off their hands.

"So, like, uh, what's the deal?" asks Mr. Top Thief

"Take a look at this morning's newspaper."

Mr. Top Thief looks around and notices a guy frozen on a bench, half-way through reading his paper. He leans over and takes it, looking at the front page.

"Superbomb testing today!" reads the headline.

"That testing," adds our enigmatic lass, "has already started. This morning, the test was initiated. Within mere seconds of real time from now, that test will rupture your planet's core, decimating all life and ripping your whole world apart from the inside. This process has already begun, and nothing can be done to stop it.

"We come from the future, but we are unable to prevent this disaster which wipes out your entire civilization. Due to the massive forces involved in the explosion, it has created enough of a rupture that we were able to harness that same force to materialise here, and using our technology we can freeze your time and save as much of your culture as we were able - but I am afraid we are unable to bring back any organic or living material with us. The awesome forces involved in the transfer make this impossible.

"So, you may keep your bracelet and live in this frozen time, forever an observer to the world, between tick and tock. But when you take off the bracelet, normal time for you will resume and you will be vapourised."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And who knows? Maybe tomorrow the world will freeze and we'll never know. Maybe even as your eye scans from one end of this line now, unknowable forces have already wreaked their terrific consequences, and, in the blink of an eye, everything that we are, everything that we have achieved, has been relinquished to a museum exhibit on an alien world.

I shall certainly be listening to Radio 4 at 8:30 in the morning to hear this machine be turned on. If anything does go wrong, I doubt we'll ever know.

And if it doesn't? Well, maybe we will just learn a little more about the nature of everything.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Holy House Prices, Batman!

So the news that the level at which stamp duty kicks has been raised to £175,000 is of only mild interest. Ok, so it could save me a couple of grand, that's nice, but at the end of the day it's not going to change my life.

No, I'm interested in this talk of a 30% "free" loan on the deposit. Tell me more!

First up, I think that anyone who goes for this and doesn't have a deposit is asking for trouble. That's where we are now - people with 95%-110% mortgages - borrowing that same amount of money from two places ain't gonna be a huge help, IMO.

But hang on... Will this be interest-free? Let's say I'm looking at a place worth £175,000.

No stamp duty. That'll save me £1,750. Whoo. Rock on.

Now, hang on a minute though... What else are they talking about? Up to 30% loan? Interest-free for five years? What's a typical variable mortgage rate? 6.4%? Work those sums through - 30% of £175,000 is £52,500. What happens to that amount if we were paying 6.4% interest on it over five years? And let's not forget that it will be compound interest...

Year 0: £52,500
Year 1: £55,860
Year 2: £59,435
Year 3: £63,238
Year 4: £67,286
Year 5: £71,592

That's £19,092 of interest over five years. Let's just round it up and call it twenty grand, shall we?

Twenty thousand pounds saved over five years.

That's one hell of a lot more interesting than a couple of grand saved on stamp duty!

I mean... Are my sums right here? Am I missing something? I for one will certainly be watching for more details to be released on this!